There are thousands of people out there with the same degree you have; when you get a job, there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.
People don’t talk about the soul very much anymore. It’s so much easier to write a résumé than to craft a spirit. But a résumé is cold comfort on a winter night, or when you’re sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you’ve gotten back the chest X ray and it doesn’t look so good, or when the doctor writes “prognosis, poor.”
You cannot be really first-rate at your work if your work is all you are.
So I suppose the best piece of advice I could give anyone is pretty simple: get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you’d care so very much about those things if you developed an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast while in the shower?
Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over the dunes, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over a pond and a stand of pines. Get a life in which you pay attention to the baby as she scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger.
Turn off your cell phone. Turn off your regular phone, for that matter. Keep still. Be present.
Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work.
Get a life in which you are generous. Look around at the azaleas making fuchsia star bursts in spring; look at a full moon hanging silver in a black sky on a cold night. And realize that life is glorious, and that you have no business taking it for granted. Care so deeply about its goodness that you want to spread it around. Take the money you would have spent on beers in a bar and give it to charity. Work in a soup kitchen. Tutor a seventh-grader.
All of us want to do well. But if we do not do good, too, then doing well will never be enough.
Excerpted from Pulitzer Prize winning author Anna Quindlen's commencement address to Villanova University, Friday 23 June 2000.
SEED QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: What does getting a life mean to you? Can you share a personal experience of a time that you noticed the grandness of life all around you? What has helped you to "get a life" that is grand, generous and shared?
Way to go, Son in law. Thanks for sharing the posting. You are the best example WE know for all these generous attributes.
Excellent and inspirational! Very helpful to me at this moment in time. I love the positive thoughts, but I do think getting a life can be a journey of enlightenment and making decisions. Decisions to move forward and make choices, not to be stagnant or trapped in any situation whether it's internal or external.
I want to thank everyone for your reflections on “Get a Life.” I like to be real and speak simple truth, as everyone is doing here. I enjoy everyone being direct and authentic. There is also a side of me willing to reveal my flaws and irrationalities, since it reflects my essence. With this said, I am willing to communicate a part of me which has over identified with my suffering and woundedness. Because of my physical deficiency and even my inner deficiency I have made a lifestyle out of suffering. To suffer is to feel deficient.
I am gradually realizing I am caught in my emotional reactions to my suffering. I do not stay with my direct awareness to allow my suffering to transform me. My belief is in my deficiency. I have constructed an identity out of it. If my ego is going full force, such as identifying with my feeling my inner lack, I begin to live in my story and I will even make up stores about being inadequate, unimportant and undesirable. My story results in this constant emotional storminess and reactivity. The whole of it obscures my ability to perceive my true identity, my value or anything else for that matter.
I am beginning to realize I fixate on suffering, a bittersweet loss, and other melancholy feelings. Unfortunately, this activity is immature and the fixations always play themselves out as a constant inner commentary on my inadequacies. I can even get caught up in how others have let me down. It feels like my fixation on my suffering is causing extreme self-consciousness, and is profoundly cutting me off from my source of truthfulness.
I want to move to a new place and consciously accept my suffering, especially learning to accept this suffering from anxiety. True enough this makes me feel edgy. I feel like I am stepping into nothingness, this void, and like I am walking off the edge of the world. I understand this place is beyond any beliefs and learned procedures. I realize there is a self that can suffer and transcend s it. I realize when the moment is felt and suffering is accepted the self is possessed. Yet I get caught into trying to make my suffering a meaningful force.
The moment or even my getting a life is no concept or belief. It feels like the direct experience of my identity to suffer, without creating a particular image or idea from it, is living in this contact with Being. Therefore, Being must partake in my suffering or there could be no self in this flow. The hopelessness would make me look for ways to escape the crushing negative self-consciousness. Maybe it is courage that draws upon the Essential and is this inner strength. I just wish my faith could constantly let go and learn to rest in this void.
I have not learned to rest in suffering and totally accept it without creating an identity out of it. Yet also there is dynamic unfolding of life in this moment. There seems to be a confidence to rest that offers this hope without my ego mind being caught in its agendas and projects. Maybe this inner place can only be touched by stillness and getting a life is this stillness. Stillness is simply learning to rest within pain and suffering, yet my mind is questioning this. Nevertheless, this edginess, the void, suffering, depression all seems to need to fall into stillness where this raw material is given a place to rest in Hope.
My writing creates this note like an echo of tears, yet truth also strikes my soul. She is my hope just as you are all my hope. This seems to be just a place to begin this journey, to let go as faith. May the journey begin in truth and in faith, and hopefully it is an opening to this hidden depths. Your presence is significant!
Amen! This ought be a priority "awakening".
If there were a way to "mark" this as "favorite", I would surely give it a "flag"!
Thank you for sharing!
Everyone suffers, there is no escape from it. How we respond to suffering, is a different matter. Some people prolong suffering unnecessarily, wallowing in self pity, resentment, anger, self righteous indignation, blaming others and etc.; others accept suffering, separate themselves from it and rise above it, thereby they attain "grace".
There are different kinds of suffering, real and imaginary. If you break your arm for instance, you experience real suffering, if you choose to be offended by the action of another, considering the action to be an insult and/or that the other "does not understand me", this is imaginary suffering, for if you had chosen to take the action in another way, or if you had tried to understand, what circumstances led the other person to perform the action, instead of feeling miss-understood yourself, then you would not have suffered.
From one point of view, it is all a question of energy, a specific kind of energy, psychic energy. Wallowing in self pity, or imagined wrong, uses up this energy, which is the very energy we need to sustain higher states of consciousness. When we accept suffering, endure it without expressing it, we transform the negative energy suffering evokes into positive energy, this process allows us to not only gain energy that would otherwise be lost, but to produce more energy, this energy fuels the state of "grace", because it can be used to sustain higher states. Upon experiencing suffering, we can choose to elevate our state above it, penetrate the present, and add to this "grace" to our true selves, or we can choose to descend into self pity, anger, resentment, bitterness, blame others, etc., and loose our Selves in these lower states, how we respond to suffering is entirely up to us.
It is difficult to separate one's true self from the suffering of the personality and body, yet the reward for doing so is an increased ability to sustain higher states within, and an increase of the energy required for doing so.
Suffering is not pleasant, yet taken rightly, it can furnish us with the very thing we need to awaken, and from this point of view is something to be thank-full for. Rilke, a sensitive German poet of the past, said "We are wasters of sorrow." To wallow in negative emotions produced in response to suffering truly wastes our finest energies, where as transforming suffering, boosts our finer energies, making them available for sustaining states of "grace", increasing our understanding, leading us into wisdom.
Recently a person commented to me, "Life is what happens to people, while they are making other plans." This is true for many people today, which begs the questions: How has this happened? Can this be changed?
With the advent of mass media, our societies have been saturated with social programming that introduced new attitudes among peoples. This phenomenon has caused a change in humans, as a result, we behave differently, than generations of the past did. Through mass media programing, humanity adopted a different set of attitudinal criteria for assessing and assigning "value" . The value of "things", the value of "actions", the value of "others", the value of acquiring "money", the value of "affluence", the value of being "in", the value of "virtue", the value of "spiritual development", the value of the" inner Self", all these have been assigned a changed degree of importance or non importance by media broadcasts in our various cultures.
This has come to us in the form of advertisements, movies, it is a kind of collective propaganda, haphazardly created by people who can afford to use the media for their promoting their products,agendas, ideas, services, opinions etc.. In the past an individual or small group of people, could only effect the values of so broad a slice of humanity very slowly, if at all. Miss information was not so easily spread, fashions were not so easily influenced, trends not easily manipulated, virtues not so easily ignored. Every one alive on the planet has been effected to a lesser or greater degree by mass media programming, we share this in common.
In the past ideas governing attitudes changed slowly, trends tended to remain steady. People had more time to evaluate ideas from their own experience, to question whether an idea, a thing, an action proved itself useful, valid, according to their own set of experiential criteria for judging values, comparing values. Now many of our experiences are created for us by mass media. These experiences are artificial, we've filled up much of our inner space with these artificial experiences, our ideas about the world, our attitudes toward life, our standards for good and bad, the interpretations we make about our personal experiences are influenced by them.
Do modern humans, as a whole, have a life of their own? We are so filled with artificial attitudes, which operate quite automatically, un-examined "as if" they were our own, that we can no longer be sure if we are living our own life, making our own choices. We are programmed to "make money", to "settle down", "reproduce", "get an education", "drink coca-cola", belong to this group or that, we are told, what to hate, what to fear, what success is and the standards whereby to measure it, we are programmed, how to dress, and how to think, what is "cool", what attitudes to use to deal with every kind of situation which we may find ourselves facing. In the midst of all this, where are our authentic Selves? What would it mean for our own authentic Self to begin to live, not according to our programming, but according to the essential nature of our own true being? Would we engage in activities contrary to our own authenticity? I think not. We would be true to ourselves in the purest sense. We would not live lives we hated, perform jobs we found no joy in, say and do things we'd later regret...even now, deep down inside, we know we would be different, truer to our inner Nature, if we could figure out how to do it effortlessly, and the world, we know, would be a changed place for it.
So how can we "get a life? Our own authentic life? The answer lies in penetrating the moment. Our life is composed of events, events are composed of moments, moments are composed of NOW. This moment, right now is where we, authentic living Being, exist. If we do not find our selves here, where else can we find our selves? If we let this moment go by, like so many others, without truly penetrating "now" with our conscious Being, making it our own crystal of time, if we fill our minds with all the things we're programmed to think, to value, to feel, to fear, and act from that programming; can we be said to "live an authentic life"?
Socrates said "the unexamined life is not worth living". To discover our own authentic nature we must begin to examine our programming, where it came from, we need to question our motives, question our habitual attitudes, prove ideas out under the open sky, in the light of our daily moments. When we shine the light of examination on our programming and with open eyes, pick out the artificial attitudes and values, and replace them with attitudes and values that "sit right with our own hearts", then our lives will truly be worth living. We will live our own authenticity. Authenticity is infectious, when the authentic living Being in us, vibrates with the truth of it's own authenticity, it sets up a similar vibration in others. When we embrace an authentic life, we send out ripples of authenticity through all of humanity, one moment at a time. The present is the leading edge of eternity, live here and embrace your own life, true to tour essential Nature.
It takes a certain kind of courage to live authentically, it is not popular, nor will such a life heap up money. Such a life however, is richly filled with experience, from which grows wisdom and understanding, and these can not be bought, at any price.
All that is is one and is sacred, and that includes each of us. To me getting a life means to realize that and live accordingly. It means seeing others and every being, animate and inanimate, as an expression of the one and sacred, just as I am. It means to be grateful for my living. It means to take the time to appreciate and enjoy all of nature and all that is. It means to not be controlled by making a living or pursuing other ambitions in such a way that I lose my life. I don't know of a specific time when I noticed the grandness of life. I know I noticed it today, which was a glorious day here where I live. Awareness of the grandness of life that I am part of and that is all around me developed as a result of my becoming aware that all that is is one and sacred, and that awareness changed me and is enhancing my developing a life that is grand, generous and shared.
How to live a life is a choice making journey. The bottom line as I understand is to make choice that that makes and keeps my body healthy, my mind calm, clear and creative and my heart caring, compassionate and loving. The wise choice for me is learn to be fully present to my self, to others in my life, to nature and to what I am doing and what is happening in me and around me.To me life is a like a flute through which divine music flows which brings deep joy in me and fulfillment in me. I share my music with my family, my friends, my clients and my students and whoever is around me and with me. The more I share, the more I feel I connected within me and with others. Life is a beautiful song which does not depend on having expensive things and making a big name. All these things are things, not me. The big challenge for me is not identify myself with my external clothes and lose my being.
I have not found it difficult to follow this simple path and I have never felt poor inside of me.I am blessed to have such inner abundance. I am grateful to my parents who lived that way and showed me the path how to live from within. I am very grateful to them and also grateful to many wonderful spiritual teachers who have inspired me to live that way.
Jagdish P Dave
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